The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is the mausoleum built by Shah Jahan, emperor of the Mughal Empire, for his favorite wife, the Persian Princess Mumtaz Mahal.
It has been described as “a dream in marble” and “a poem in stone”. Indeed, the white marbled dome mystifies the onlooker as it changes color from pinkish at sunrise to golden yellow in the moonlight. It is situated on 42 acres of land and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
In 1983 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and it is widely esteemed as the epitome of Mughal art and architecture.
Art and architecture
The mausoleum is part of a complex of buildings situated to the south of the city of Agra in the province of Uttar Pradesh, India. Red sandstone buildings flank the domed mausoleum. The complex is surrounded by gardens on three sides and the Yamuna River on the northern side. It is thought that the gardens were originally laid out according to the Persian legends of what paradise could have looked like.
The domed building is a world-renowned symbol of the love of the Emperor for his favorite wife. Their tombs are situated side by side on one of the lower levels of the building, whilst his other wives and a favorite servant were buried outside the walls of the complex in smaller mausoleums.
The main finial of the Taj Mahal dome was originally of gold but in the 19th century it had been replaced by a gilded bronze copy.
Persian, Hindu and Islamic decorative elements can be identified in the building and complex. Calligraphic inscriptions on the white marble walls can be read. However, it is the inlay work on interior marble walls that are truly magnificent. Shah Jahan imported jade, amethyst, turquoise, lapis lazuli, sapphire, carnelian and various other types of semi-precious and precious stones that were inlaid into the carved marble walls.
Tourism and culture
In 2015 it is estimated that the Taj Mahal draws 3 million visitors a year (about 45,000 a day in peak season) and tourism is therefore carefully managed in order to preserve the cultural integrity of the site.
The mosque is still used on Fridays for religious services. Nevertheless, it is one of the most popular tourism sites in the world.